2019 is coming at us fast. And come 2019, the L train will officially cease to be a thing that transports you between boroughs. You won’t be able to get from Manhattan to North Brooklyn unless you grow some wings, find a magic carpet, become an Olympic swimmer, or at the very least get used to the idea of paying more for your cab ride than you will for your meal.
We say this not to ruin your day, but to tell you that it’s probably time you did some eating in Bushwick. There’s a lot happening over here right now, which is why we’re making a big update to our guide. Get to know this neighborhood again, and if you find that magic carpet let us know.
Ops might be pretty new, but it’s already one of the neighborhood’s best restaurant hangs. A block away from the Dekalb L stop, the first thing you’ll notice is that they nailed the look of the place - huge windows, lots of reclaimed wood, and a long bar area overlooking the open kitchen and pizza oven. The menu is pretty short, but they serve everything you need: a few great pizzas, a salad or two, dessert, and drinks. Have confidence that whatever wine they happen to be pouring is good. You’ll feel like you’re a regular here even if it’s your first time.
Sally Roots is cool. But not so cool that you’d feel uncomfortable bringing an early in the game date or your soon-to-be-former friend Steve from college who thinks Shake Shack isn’t worth the price. It’s a welcoming, accessible spot to eat affordable Caribbean comfort food (nothing is over $18) and drink tropical cocktails (none are over $12), or if you happen to be in the mood for ramen or something on the healthier side, you can get that too. In other words, it’s hard not to like this place. Shut up, Steve.
Delicious tacos out of a tortilla factory out of a garage. How could this place get any better? BYOB. And they have that too. Everything here is incredibly cheap - tacos are $2.50 a pop, and three of them makes for a solid dinner. Or splurge for the quesadilla, which is massive by comparison and costs $4.50. Don’t miss out on the house-made red hot sauce - you want it all over everything you get here.
When Roberta’s opened, it was the first thing to successfully convince hoards of people to hang out (and eventually live) in Bushwick. Today, it’s still the most compelling restaurant in the neighborhood. The pizza is as outstanding as ever, but the Roberta’s reach has now expanded to include a garden, separate takeout operation, event space - the list goes on. At the end of the day, basically everyone can agree: Roberta’s is something special. Come at brunch if you’re looking to (partially) avoid the waits.
You know when you walk into a place, and immediately feel like your mom would like it here? That’s Le Garage. And while your mom might very well like this place, we also might be biased because we know it’s run by a mom and daughter team (the former of whom was a chef at some serious restaurants in Paris). It’s a welcoming, low-key restaurant that serves foie gras and roast chicken. And regardless of your mom, you’ll probably like it too.
One of the more grown-up restaurants in Bushwick, Faro is a good place for a date. But it’s an even better place to bring parents and/or out-of-towners who want to feel like they’ve gotten a good Brooklyn experience in. The converted warehouse space is simple but nice, the pasta is good, and you can actually make a reservation.
Bunna Cafe is a place everyone in the neighborhood seems to know about, but bring anyone who doesn’t live in Bushwick here and their mind is blown. This is an Ethiopian restaurant perfect for an early in the game date or for a group dinner, where you can order “The Feast” and try one of everything on the menu. There will be a wait, but it’s always worth it.
A bar first, restaurant second, El Cortez is still a very solid place not just to drink, but also to eat. Themed bars are usually at best kind of quaint, and at worst reminiscent of your 3rd-grade cowboy birthday party. But this ’70s themed spot manages to be neither - and it’s the Tex-Mex/tiki feel that keeps us coming back. It’s low-key, yet definitely fun enough to warrant a trip to the neighborhood, and would even make for a great birthday spot.
Your roommate just gave you a heads up that she’s planning to turn your apartment into an ayahuasca den tomorrow, your boss freaked out at you for forgetting to use a paper clip instead of staples again, and you lost your month unlimited metrocard three days into the month. You need a T.O. Get some alone time at Ichiran, a ramen place where you can put up dividers even more divider-y than what they used in elementary school to keep kids from cheating on their math tests. In other words: noodle slurping in blissful solitary confinement.
There are a bunch of coffee shops with food in this area, but Little Skips is the best of them. They serve a bunch of sandwiches (our favorite is the one with goat cheese, pesto, and turkey called “The M Train”) and bagels for hungover Sunday mornings or an afternoon of LSAT studying. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to be on the same page about this place, so it’s often crowded with people grabbing coffee, but there are usually tables available if you want to sit down. Also, they have lots of vegan and gluten-free options, and stay open until 9pm, with live music and art events most evenings.
We only recently figured out that Little Mo is owned by the same people as Little Skips. Which now seems obvious to us, given the names and the proximity of these two counter-service places. Right by the Myrtle Ave subway, Little Mo is a Vietnamese spot that serves great banh mi, vermicelli rice bowls, and pho. They only do beef pho on the weekends and have a limited selection of beer and cider, but those are pretty much the only drawbacks of this place. Bring a casual date or just bring yourself and hang here for a few hours instead of dealing with the mess from your roommate’s Blue Apron.
La Lupe is another excellent counter-service lunch and dinner option that’s across the street from Little Mo. Not only does La Lupe make some of the best tacos in Bushwick, it has one of the better spaces to sit down and enjoy them with friends. You can also get non-taco things here like elote, burritos, and tostadas, and they have a Happy Hour from 3-7pm every weekday with $3 shots and $5 margaritas, and enough table space to fit a few medium sized groups.
Cape House is a great summer spot for seafood and day drinking in this part of Bushwick (the part that’s close to the Morgan Ave L). The food is still good during the winter, but the place isn’t quite the same without the patio, where you can sit with a big group at a picnic table outside, drinking cocktails on-tap. Expect to see other people eating burgers, fish and chips, and a bunch of seasonal-specific vegetables and mains, but if you want to do Cape House right, stick to the clam roll.
You no longer have to schlep quite so far to eat at Bunker (the original was in Ridgewood), which makes some of the better Vietnamese food in NYC. It’s now in Bushwick, with a much bigger space that’s great for groups. It might still be located in industrial Brooklyn, but inside it feels like a tropical hang: bright colors, paper lantern lights, plants, and lots of open seating.
Sometimes you need a grilled cheese on white bread with a single slice of Kraft American cheese at a diner at 4am. And sometimes you need a grilled cheese on ciabatta with red wine braised short rib, gruyere, and blackberry jam. That’s when you come to The Wheelhouse. This restaurant has a few salads and appetizers like tots and mac and cheese, but it’s essentially a grilled cheese-themed neighborhood hang: they do trivia night and wine down Wednesdays where bottles of wine are half off and your clothes are guaranteed to smell like crispy cheese by the end.
It’s date night. With a person you’ve been on two hundred dates with. Netflix and Seamless has been floated, but you’re determined to do something that shows this person you still know how to be exciting. Or at least kind of fun. Take them to Guadalupe Inn, an upscale Mexican place where you can order an al pastor platter to make your own tacos, and maybe even catch a jazz or burlesque show at the small stage in the back afterwards.
Maite is a cute little spot serving food that actually feels different than what you’ll find at 90% of other cute little Brooklyn spots. They serve European-inspired farm to table stuff, which amounts to a menu that has everything from empanadas, to burrata with squid ink, to ribeye with an arepa. (And, ok fine, there’s also a burger - but it’s also very good.) Come here with a date or a group when you’ve seen the pizza/pasta/salad show too many times lately.
Restaurant fatigue. It’s a symptom that plagues even the best eaters once in a while. You want to go out after work/after laying around your house all day watching Netflix, but just going to a restaurant doesn’t sound all that awesome right now. You want action. You want intrigue. But you also don’t want it to require much more effort than just going to dinner. That’s why there’s Syndicated, a restaurant/bar/movie theater. Stop in and hang in the giant front bar where they also serve food and show movies on the projectors, or check the schedule online to see which cult classic movie is playing tonight in the theater.
Two-hour wait at Roberta’s got you down? Head south a few blocks to Forrest Point, a great indoor/outdoor bar with solid cocktails and a random menu (tuna tartare tacos, porchetta sandwich, quinoa salad) that has something for everyone. Like all good Bushwick spots, the atmosphere is industrial yet homey, and feels like the kind of place where you can just sit and hang for a while.
Momo gives the people what they want: tasty, if slightly gimmicky creations that go way beyond the typical spicy tuna on crispy rice type offerings. We have to admit, the sushi bombs (their signature single-bite creations) are weirdly addicting. The atmosphere here is cozy enough for a date, but the big communal tables are great for groups if you can get here early enough to grab one.
Mominette is a French bistro best enjoyed for brunch on the backyard patio with an order of mac and cheese somewhere on your table. The cocktails are also solid - note the double Happy Hour - 5-7pm and 12-2am - the first of which includes $1 oysters.
Queen of Falafel is a tiny spot (attached to House of Yes) serving the freshest and tastiest Mediterranean food in the neighborhood. If you’re able to grab one of its few seats (this place is tiny), you’ll be treated to an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re eating in a shack owned by the coolest grandma ever. Or just pick it up on your way home for couch glory.
Neighborhoods full of 20-somethings can only survive with the help of casual date spots. It’s science. Santa Panza is one of them, serving 6 or 12-inch wood-fired pizzas, salads, and small plates, with a little bar up front in case you’re not on a date, but dining solo. Nothing on the menu is expensive on its own, but know that things can add up quickly, because you’ll want to order a bunch of little pizzas. This place is cash only, but there’s an ATM in the restaurant, which is something you should know ahead of time so you can avoid the weird payment dance at the end of your date while one of you waits at the table.
Bushwick is home to two Guacuco establishments: Hotdogs and Arepas. You want the latter, where you’ll eat thick corn patties packed with fillings like pernil (pork shoulder) and pabellon (beef, cheese, beans, plantains) in a super casual environment. This is a family-run establishment - it’s named after the beach where the owner’s mother was born, and it’s that mother who’s running the kitchen.
Lucy’s has a concise menu, but everything on it is great. The staples are the Pho and Banh Mi (or a mashup of the two, Pho Banh Mi, which involves meat sauteed in pho broth). And while you can choose a meat, you definitely want brisket.
Nicandras is a casual Italian place right next to Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen and Boobie Trap on Irving. It doesn’t seem like much (there’s not a lot of signage and the inside is pretty simple), but this place makes all of their own pasta and has reasonable prices for food you’d see at a fancier restaurant. Despite feeling under-the-radar, it does fill up, so it might be a good idea to make a reservation for a date night with someone you want to impress without spending the kind of money you would at places like Maite or Faro.
As the name implies, The Narrows isn’t much more than a skinny little bar - but walk out the back and you’ll find yourself on one of Bushwick’s better patios. Not patio weather? There are still plenty of reasons to come here: namely, the excellent cocktails, the solid bar food (that they serve until late), and the dark atmosphere that’s perfect for a nightcap or a midnight snack.